It’s hard to believe summer has gone by so quickly. The back-to-school ads are in full swing, and in my house, the focus has turned from swimsuits and tanning oil to school supplies. Fortunately, for me, my wife and kids like to shop for school supplies without me. They must have figured out Dad won’t buy the “cool stuff.”
According to the National Retail Federation, this time of year is the second biggest spend for consumers (after the holidays, of course). In 2012, the average family with children in grades K-12 spent $688 per child on school supplies, including clothes and other accessories. So here are some tips to help save money if you’re buying school supplies/clothes this year.
1. Recycle – Take a look around your house to see if you have supplies from last year. At my house, there are dozens of pencils lying around. So while pencils are cheap, there’s really no need for us to buy more. If you find things like folders, crayons, scissors, and notebooks, the savings can start adding up.
2. Buy only what you need – Going shopping for school supplies can be exciting. The stores have colorful ads and great displays, but stay focused and buy only the items on your list.
3. Consider leaving your kids at home – When the kids enter the store, they’re excited and want to buy just about everything; it’s almost like Christmas! Even though we think we’re in charge and can easily say “NO,” our kids can still pressure us into buying things they don’t need.
4. Brand name versus store name – Compare the prices between the brand and store name supplies. In some cases, there may be no difference in quality. Give the store brand a try and see how the product holds up.
5. Research – Review the store ads and try to figure out what their loss leaders (items priced at a loss to get you in the store) are. Is it crayons, notebooks, or folders? If different stores in your area have different loss leaders, you may be able to save significantly.
6. Go through the tubs of clothes in the basement – My wife has been saving my oldest daughter’s clothes for years, and this year it finally paid off! She found many nice clothes from Aeropostale, and American Eagle that now fit my youngest daughter. My youngest daughter is thrilled because she idolizes her older sister and Dad’s wallet will be spared.
7. Consider shopping at garage sales or thrift stores – If you don’t have a supply of clothes in your basement, consider shopping at local garage sales or thrift stores. You may be able to pick up gently-used shoes, clothes, jackets, backpacks, and more.
8. Use social media and the internet to find deals – We all know how popular Facebook and Twitter have become over the past few years. Consider following your favorite brands or stores on these social media outlets. They may send out information about upcoming sales or offer coupons. If you visited some stores and the shelves are already bare, consider online retailers like Amazon.
9. Buy in bulk – Since school supply prices are good this time of year, consider buying supplies that will have to be replaced throughout the school year.
10. Determine how you plan to purchase the supplies/clothing – If you purchase supplies with cash, you’re more likely to stick to your back-to-school budget. If you purchase items with a store credit card, you may be entitled to additional savings. While the additional savings is great, if you can’t pay off the store credit card in a reasonable amount of time, the interest rate will diminish your savings and could end up costing you more.
Do you have any money-saving tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them; please share them in the box below.